The Musashi Ichinomiya Hikowa Shrine
A Tori gate in Omiya, Saitama, Japan
Fall colors in Omiya Park
More entries from my pen and paper Journal:
"[Approximately 8:30 A.M., Wednesday, November 29, 2006, Marroad Inn Omiya, Saitama, Japan]. The big day. This morning for devotions I spent some time wrestling with the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah. The goal is not to have faith enough to obey blindly and robotically, but faith enough to see God's heart and know it and trust it so well that I'm able to step out in faith even in the most daunting and impossible of situations. Such faith is about being to able to see, not about being blind. Help me see you more clearly today, Lord."
And sure enough, I did.
I took this shot using the camera timer during my morning devotions. Check out the cool Japanese robe they gave us to use!
Here's the view from my hotel room, as taken from the desk where I was having my devotions.
"It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away"
--U2, "Beautiful Day"
I didn't intend to. I set out to explore around ten in the morning. The day was gorgeous, bright sunshine, crisp autumn air. This photo was taken on the walk from my hotel to the neighborhood Starbucks. I picked up a mocha latte, and then went next door to the internet cafe to write Babs, and then went down the block to the train station to begin my day of adventures!
Me and John. I took this photo outside the John Lennon Museum, on the grounds of the Saitama SuperArena. I a took a train here first to get the lay of the land and see what sites might be nearby. It was only one stop away from the area where my hotel was, and I found I could just walk back up to the Omiya station--it was only about 20 minutes on foot, which I ended up doing since I soon figured out the things I wanted to see were actually located closer to where I was staying. I would walk back to the Superarena in the afternoon for the concert.
Random beauty in Japan
"2:08 P.M. Omiya Park, Saitama, Japan: Wow. I see the wonder of Your creation and I'm moved. I'm literally overwhelmed by beauty right now. I've tried to take pictures to capture it and they are pathetic. I'm trying to put it into words and failing at that too. All I can do is savor it now, fully experience this moment and store it in my memory. This is where I wish someone--Babs--was here to share it with me because I feel like no one will believe me otherwise, when I try to communicate the sublime beauty of this place.
I'm sitting on a bench in Omiya Park and it is the essence of what we think of when we think of "Old Japan"--beautifully landscaped gardens, crimson, orange, lemon-colored leaves mixed with greens.
I passed underneath a massive Tori gate. . .
. . . .walked down a long avenue, yellow leaves whispering dream-like to the ground around me. . .
. . .and through another gate and into this peaceful oasis.
I crossed a bright red bridge over a pond stocked with dull brown fish and the occasional orange or yellow koi splashing at the water's surface hungry for crumbs tossed by the people on the bridge. Then it was on to the Musashi Ichinomiya Hikowa shrine.
Me in front of the Musashi Ichinomiya Hikowa shrine
I entered it's ancient gates and walked into the grounds full of wooden Japanese structures. The shrine itself was unmistakable. People gathered outside, tossed coins into a small water-filled basin, clapped once or twice and and bowed. Inside the shrine itself were a few more worshipers and what would guess were Shinto priests engaged in some sort of ceremony. I wish I knew what it all meant.
Despite the fact that this was not a Christian ceremony, I saw God there too, sensed that somehow He must be near, that His heart must be touched by these people coming and asking for help, for healing, for something. I thought of the scripture in Acts that describes how people "seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." I pray that their prayers were heard.
The interior grounds of the shrine. I did not take pictures of the actual place of worship (which is directly behind this structure) or the worshipers as it felt a little crass to be snapping away, flash going off and all, as they worshipped. Imagine someone popping into our church on Sabbath morning camera around their neck and taking pictures of us and our church as we tried to worship!
These shots were taken from and near the bench where I sat and rested for about forty-five minutes. It was from this vantage point that I wrote the selections you are reading here.
This park is visited mostly by older folks (the young ones are hard at work in modern Japan, just outside this park). They're here with their professional looking cameras and tripods, focusing intently on details of beauty among the crimson leaves and in the still waters that I'm certainly missing.
Note the photographer in the bottom left corner of this photo
This was a large boat pond. . .it looked more a like a lake to me. A Japanese couple was feeding these large orange fish at the edge of the pond. I think they are koi?
Below is another shot of the boat pond.
"It's nice to see the sites and I'm glad I found this place, but much of the adventures has been in just walking the streets in their foreign ordinariness, imagining the lives of the regular people for whom this is home and regular "everyday" life. It's one of the things I love most about travel.
2:48 P.M.--Still wandering Omiya Park contentedly. [I had on that day something I rarely ever have in my hectic life. I wasn't in a hurry. I had plenty of time, and nothing to do but just explore whatever looked interesting. That was a very good feeling!]. I'm now on the other side of the boat pond, sitting on a bench again. To my left a white guy mabye my age or younger sits, writing in a small notebook. Just ahead and to my left, a young couple sits; the man stretched out on the bench, his head in the woman's lap. I can only see his lges. She has long, dark hair, is elegantly dressed in high-heeled leather boots.
To my right a group of older men gather. Six are sitting, shoes removed, on tatami mats playing some sort of game--a kind of dominoes, it seems. The oithers stand around looking on with interest, perhaps waiting their term. They watch with pleasant interest, the smoke from their cigarettes curling in the autumn air."
Walking back from Omiya I noticed a lot of small, but beautiful Japanese homes. It oftens that when Babs and I visit another country we find ourselves saying "We could live here! Let's move here after we leave Saipan!" (Sorry about that, moms!) The visit to Japan was no exception and after my glorious afternoon in Omiya Park I was ready to make the move to the Land of the Rising Sun! Anyhow, with those thoughts in mind I came across the quaint, unassuming yet very beautiful little place, and I thought "I could see Barbara and I living in this house." There seemed to be small garden inside the gate which I could imagine Barbara tending. I imagined peaceful Sabbath afternoon strolls in the park nearby and right then and there I decided: This is our house! (with apologies to the actual owners, I'm sure!) And I took the photo above to capture it for posterity!
It was a wonderful afternoon. . .
BUT, "I stiiiiiiilll hadn't fooooound what I came to Japan for." That was still to come!